I'm traveling from Prague to Germany and hoping to show my 10 & 14 year old some sights via train. They have expressed interest in castles, luge, Munich, Dachau (only one wants to see it, so we may skip). They aren't really the zoo - type as they'd prefer to see the German culture and sites rather than amusement parks and zoos. Not really interested in the BMW museum either. I have the choice to fly out of Prague or Frankfurt - but thinking Frankfurt and can get a 7:30 AM flight out there. Wondering about Nauschwanstein or do another castle up near the Rhine? Rothenbrug and Romantic Road are of interest but we will not have car. I usually try to pack too many things in the itinerary so I have to be aware that I'm traveling with kids and each of us will have luggage too. Thanks!
I guess I'm not opposed to car but I'm trying to save money with train and also enjoy the scenery and not just drive. I will be the only parent on the trip so I also was trying to provide a little "rest" time for me and I absolutely love trains and want my kids to experience train travel. I was going to buy Czech - Germany train pass for us all as we will be in Eastern Czech the week prior working at an English Camp.
Don't be fooled by the name "Romantic Road." It's just a road through a certain part of Germany and is no more interesting than any other road.
I would suggest Munich as the ideal place for children. The Deutsches Museum is exciting and also houses a small planetarium.
There are several art museums.
A day trip to Prien on the Chiemsee is a fine excursion and the Ludwig castle on an island in the lake there is a much better castle to visit than Neuschwanstein. You'll enjoy the boat ride out to see it.
Too bad your children don't like zoos--the one in Munich is excellent.
I lived near Munich for a while when I was 14 and a few of the things that stick out in my mind from then are walking up to Andechs and having lunch at the beer garden there, Nymphenburg Castle in Munich was like something out of a fairy tale to a 14-year old girl, the energy and noise in Hofbrauhaus, going to a church service in one of the fantastic Rococo churches (Asamkirche, Ettal, Wieskirche are examples) - there was so much to look at and it was very different from church here in North America, my first visit to Dachau was a very powerful experience that I will never forget, and window-shopping in Munich's pedestrian zones was a lot of fun to a young teenager. I think the Nightwatchman's Tour in Rothenburg would be another memorable thing.
If the kids are interested in castles it matters a what kind of castles they are imagining. Neuschwanstein, Herrenchiemsee and Linderhof are very much the fairytale princess kind of castles while the castles along the Rhine are more knights and catapults kind of castles and have a lot more real, lived-in history associated with them. Both have their place in sparking the imagination but they are very different.
I know you didn't ask but you are right to keep in mind that you need to pace yourself when traveling with kids. I traveled a lot as a kid and now I travel a lot with my own kids. Make sure you build kid time and activities into every day, I can't tell you how many hours we spent splashing in fountains in Burgundy last year but it made a huge difference in how my son viewed our sightseeing walks. Give them time to get off their feet because nothing spoils sightseeing worse than "Mom, my feet hurt" over and over again. Always have snacks on hand. Maybe give them each something they can collect from every place you visit (like stickers, post cards, dolls in their local traditional clothing, or some other inexpensive souvenir) to get them excited and give them one more thing to look forward to. And ... never, ever underestimate the power of a ice cream sundae or gelato at a cafe every afternoon.
I don't know what your travel plans are in the Czech Republic, but I think fares in the CR are low enough that a rail pass with Germany wouldn't pay.
If you can be certain of a date and time, you can get advance purchase ticket, Savings Fare for the Bahn IC bus from Prague to Nürnberg for as low as 19€, and youy 10 and 14 yo's would be free. For another 10€, you could take the bus to Nürnberg and trains from there to Rothenburg on the same day.
While in Bavaria, you could travel around on regional trains on a Bayern-Ticket for 23€ for unlimited travel, all day, after 9 AM workdays.. Again, all of your own children under 15 go for free on the Bayern-Ticket.
While around Nürnberg, you can have unlimited travel on regional trains, U- and S-Bahn, buses, etc throughout the VGN (Nürnberg metro area for 17,50€. That includes travel between Rothenburg and Nürnberg.
When you are ready to go to Frankfurt, you can use another advance purchase Savings Fare ticket for as low as 29€. However, those are popular routes and the lowest prices will probably already be sold out, but price still lower than full fare. Again, you kids are free.
You may want to rethink the Czech Republic - Germany rail pass. If I looked at it right it's $379 for an adult and $324 for your 14 year old and $191 for your 10 year old. I think you can save a lot of money by just buying point-to-point tickets. When you're in Germany, they have great regional passes. For example, you can travel anywhere in Bavaria (trains, buses, trams) for just 23€ and your kids travel free. So for 23€ you can have unlimited travel in Bavaria for the day (there are caveats about traveling after 9am on weekdays and other details that you can read about here. http://www.bahn.com/i/view/GBR/en/prices/germany/laender-ticket.shtml).
I just wanted to point out these passes in case you didn't know about them. We went to Germany last year and found them to be a fantastic deal.
Hopefully Lee from Colorado will also be by to comment... he's the resident German train expert!
EDIT: Ha! Lee and I were writing at the same time
Thanks so much for all of the great advice. I've always done railway passes b/c I can just hop on and off and not worry about purchasing any tickets but you all have made me re-think and I may change my ways! It's not that they don't like zoos - it's more me. I figure we can see animals in U.S. but cannot see all of the other sites we have access to in Germany.
Your suggestions sound wonderful and lovely spots to explore. I can't wait to read more about those sites. We could also spend some time just hopping on and off trains and visiting spots off the Rhine. I will ask them their thoughts about castles. I know they really want to do a luge down a mountain. I tend to prefer sites that are not over commercialized but may make some exceptions (Hoffrbrauhaus, Rothenberg, etc). My 10 year old and I went to Auschwitz last summer and although my 14 year old would like to see Dachau, I'm not sure my 10 year old wants to see another concentration camp right now. Maybe another time together...
Any thoughts on time prior to a 7:30 AM flight out of Frankfurt? I really hate the thought of an airport hotel and the steep price but will be needing to be at airport by 5 AM. We could go back to Prague to fly out too but trying to get as much sightseeing time as we can from Sunday - Thursday after our time in Eastern Czech (we'll get to see Poland and the Czech mountain area while there) and a few days in Prague prior to going to the camp. I'd love an easy airport and departure :).
I also have a friend in Friedrichshafen we could go see as well.
If you stay in Frankfurt itself, and in a hotel near the train station, you can be at the airport in 11 min. with a train going every 15 min. Check out the Excelsior Hotel or Hotel Monopol. They have triple rooms, free mini-bar, & free wi-fi. Get to Frankfurt the day before and you can go to the Palmengarten, or if you are early enough, head up to Bad Homburg and the Saalburg. Great Roman fort that kids enjoy (and adults too). If it is a rainy day, you could go to the Senckenburg Museum, or take a break by going to an adventure pool, like Rebstockbad. The Zoo is always there, but I know what you mean about going to see animals that you can see in your own hometown zoo.
If you don't want touristy Rothenburg, you could visit Büdingen instead. It is only an hour by train from Frankfurt.
For kids in the age group of your kids, I kind of thing the best castle would be Burg Rhinefels in St. Goar. Lots of tunnels to explore and the place is just a huge, massive fortress.
Here's some suggestions for you and your kids.
Munich-with a day trip to Neuschwanstein castle. Nice lake there, you can rent boats or dip your toes plus there are great hikes in the area. In Munich there is plenty to do including museums, English garden or even the former Olympic sight. Or do a biking tour. I also like Rothenburg. Great walled city that they can explore, there is also a public pool for a break. They also have a unique Crime and Punishment museum and best of all the Night Watchman tour. It makes sense to stop on the Rhine on your way to Frankfurt. I would suggest either Bacharach or St. Goar as a home base. There is a great castle hostel in Bacharach that you all might enjoy. You can bike that area or ride the ferry between tours seeing the Loreley. St. Goar has a great castle that is fun to explore. Then spend your final night in Frankfurt. If you arrive at a decent time in Frankfurt the night before visit the Cathedral. I would stay in Frankfurt for that early flight. I don't like to push it when I'm traveling solo with my kids.
Thank you all so much!